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In the following sentence, is the definite article "the" required in front of the noun describing a group whose scope is narrowed by a subsequent description?

They established better understanding with [the?] speakers that sounded relaxed.

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The definite article is not required unless there is a clear referent: a set of identifiable speakers that fit the condition, not just any speakers that fit the condition; using the definite article, a reader would expect you to be thinking of certain speakers (from an identifiable set) that sounded relaxed.

In the following, the definite article is pretty well excluded as there is no identifiable set of speakers within which a subset is being specified.

WAIT-PW is holding its own public town hall meeting April 19, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Camlachie Community Centre with speakers that include people living near turbines and a naturalist who will talk about the impact on birds. (The Sarnia Observer)

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If the statement is about evaluating the group of speakers at a conference, the article would be correct. Leaving out the article makes the statement refer to speakers in general, not just those at the conference.

When referring to speakers at the conference the statement could also use "those", i.e.

They established better understanding with those speakers that sounded relaxed.

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  • At a conference, context demands that the speakers are at the conference (unless we're given an override): the sentence would be misleading otherwise. This makes 'They established better understanding with speakers who/that sounded relaxed' totally adequate. Mar 27, 2022 at 14:53

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